Hello again everyone! Darin “Shr3d” O’Meara here for another article. Today I will be on the topic of CSGO, talking about a recent controversy that has peaked my interest.
Jakob “JUBI” Hansen is one of Denmark’s top prospects on the Danish team Tricked eSports. His ratings had been stellar for throughout 2016 and into the present, impressing players and teams alike. He had the highest rating out of all of his teammates; an astounding 1.19 on HLTV.org. Hansen looked to be Denmark’s top young up-and-coming player at the age of only 19, but his road seemingly ended February 8th, when it was announced that Tricked have benched Hansen after he signed a contract with Heroic for January 1st, 2018. According to Tricked, he will remain benched until the end of his current contract with Tricked, or until a deal for his contract buyout is worked out.
Statements released from both sides seem to reveal a bit of bad blood between the organizations. In an interview with Morten “Phy” Jensen, Tricked eSports’ owner, Jensen uses some heavy language, stating “they have sabotaged our success again” (credit to Dust2.dk and HLTV.org). When questioned on the use of the word “sabotage” and on the fairness of the deal, Jensen added “No, I don’t think [the deal was fair], but I don’t have further comments to that subject.” According to Jensen, negotiations are stuck on the monetary factor, and neither side has been able to come to an agreement regarding the contract buyout of Hansen (full interview available on HLTV.org).
However, this is where the situation gets incredibly conflicting. In an interview conducted with Nikolaj Nyholm, Founder and CEO of RFRSH, the organization that represents Heroic, Nyholm stated, “our general policy is not to comment transfers, contracts or any negotiation details, but we do want to make it clear that we only offered JUGi a contract for 2018 after it became clear, we would not be able to come to an agreement with Tricked for a transfer in 2017 and after Tricked benched him” (credit to HLTV.org). According to Nyholm, it was only after negotiations had failed and after Hansen’s benching that Heroic offered him a contract for 2018. This would be clearly confirmed the same day as the breaking of the story by Nyholm himself in a Tweet stating “FYI no contract was offered to JUGi before he was benched. So that’s not an excuse for benching him.”
I am going to break up the controversy into three points-of-view: that of Tricked eSports, that of Heroic and RFRSH, and that of Hansen himself.
Tricked eSports is Denmark’s fourth step on the totem pole for upcoming players (not including Rogue, as they are a developing organization within CSGO for the time being, and FaZe, where Finn “karrigan” Andersen and Philip “aizy” Aistrup have ended up at one point or another). Each player on their way to stardom usually goes through Tricked eSports, then onto Heroic, then North, then the juggernaut Astralis. This is even referenced by Martin ‘Martin’ Kristian Rosenbæk during his interview with Jensen.
Because of this sort of totem pole system, the management at Tricked has every right to be frustrated. Jensen referenced several times in his interview that he had just begun a new project in an attempt to create a successful and world-class organization, instead of forever remaining the fourth best team in Denmark. However, is that their own fault? In December of 2015, Denmark’s best roster, now under the Astralis banner, were free of an organization and were on the market. Tricked had the opportunity to shift the totem pole their way by buying into Astralis. No matter what bank loan or borrowing needed for such a purchase, it should’ve been obvious to anyone even close to knowledgeable about CSGO that any investment they could’ve made would easily be returned, and more. So do they really have the right to complain? In his interview, Jensen states that he doesn’t think that their place is set on the totem pole, but any educated observer can see that the food chain exists in Denmark, and Jensen knows it.
Tricked eSports’ actual reasoning behind the benching of Hansen is actually pretty logical, however unfortunate for Hansen that may be. Jensen said in his interview that “we do not want to put in our effort to develop a player who will leave us.” What’s the point of developing a player who’s just going to leave in a year? However, factor in the argument from Heroic and RFRSH, and the situation becomes more interesting. They claim that Hansen was benched prior to the signing of the contract. So, are Tricked and Jensen lying or telling the truth? Or are they just trying to cover up spite toward Heroic?
Jensen’s justification for their contract buyout price is shaky as well. When asked about the contract buyout price, Jensen said “I have seen several write that we want $150,000, but that is not true – our price is below that. We think the price we have set is more than fair for the biggest AWP talent, which also has some of the best ratings on HLTV.” Assuming Hansen’s buyout is around the $100,000 range due to Jensen’s statement, is this too high? In 2015, Adil “ScreaM” Benriltom was supposedly bought out of his contract for €150,000 (~$160,000). An unproved talent like Hansen, in my opinion, should not go for even half of the buyout for an established player like Benriltom. It seems to me like Tricked is being greedy and are basing the buyout on stats alone. They have to remember that sure he has some of the best stats on HLTV, but against Tier 2 or Tier 3 competition. Stats are a good way to characterize a player at first glance, but stats aren’t everything and a player’s complete abilities shouldn’t be based on ratings, and neither should a contract buyout.
Is the benching of a possible future superstar ethical? Hansen has a huge career ahead of him if his play continues to impress in Denmark. A full year-long hiatus from the game could ruin his chances of ever playing at his peak level again. Players often peak at a young age and retire early, meaning every day, month, and year off will hurt him dearly. Is the sacrifice of a young star’s peak worth the extra money? Do they even care? There are too many questions revolving around this story for it to be fully understood.
Heroic is widely known as the third best team in Denmark. Heroic is the first step in Denmark to international competition, and have tasted success a couple times in doing so. Heroic always has upset potential, and has done so on several occasions, like their upset win over G2 eSports at Northern Arena Montreal. Heroic currently has a four man roster, and they wanted Hansen to fill the gap.
Offering a contract for 2018 is unheard of, as the scene fluctuates so much in the matter of a year that Heroic might not even have a team come Hansen’s time to shine. From the statements presented, it seems that Heroic were fair in the terms of the deal, contacting Hansen as well as being transparent with Tricked about the nature of the deal. The 2018 contract seems like more of a safety net for Heroic so that they can for sure attain Hansen eventually, although very risky, as his skill level could be much lower than it is today.
Heroic enters the standstill in an awkward position. Tricked has essentially held Heroic’s fifth man hostage, and is demanding ransom. The ransom is too much for Heroic, so what do they do? Let them win? It seems they haven’t done that just yet, as the standstill is still going on and seemingly will continue so long as Heroic is unwilling to match the price Tricked is demanding. Heroic is also on a clock, as the longer Hansen stays in limbo, the worse he will get as a player. Tricked knows this, which allows them to keep their price firm if Heroic ever want to get Hansen out of bench-hell with his skill intact.
In addition, Heroic is also without a fifth until 2018 if this situation can’t be solved. Heroic will have to find a new player to fill the gap for a full year, and they can’t grab anyone from Tricked for obvious reasons. Not many players are going to be interested in being a year-long stand-in; they want to compete on a set team and be able to make their way up the ladder, not get dumped for a player the organization signed a year ago. Heroic has used Casper “Cadian” Møller to some success in recent memory, but he has his own team in Rogue. Heroic’s options are limited, meaning they’re going to have to either force a deal with Tricked over Hansen or find someone else to sign.
Several questions remain unanswered on their side however. Are they being stingy? Are they lowballing Tricked? Is signing a contract a year in advance reckless for Heroic? How far are they willing to go to prevent Hansen from losing his current peak in skill? Tricked accuses Heroic of being unfair and “sabotaging” their operations; is this true? Have Heroic been “poaching” Hansen by secretly making contact earlier than what reports suggest?
Hansen is the one most affected by this scandal. After all, it is he who is losing playing time and he who is stuck on a contract with a team that refuses to play him for the next year. It is he that may lose his chance at a CSGO career at the expense of some bad blood between a couple of organizations.
Taking a look at Hansen’s stats, it’s obvious that he is a top prospect for Danish teams (1.24 K/D Ratio, 1.16 Rating, 0.78 Average Kills per Round). He is a great player, and now it seems like he’s being punished for it. All Hansen wants is a better team with better opportunities. Tricked isn’t participating in anything globally at the moment simply because they aren’t good enough. The team participates in qualifiers and can’t qualify for the tournament each and every time. Heroic plays in the qualifiers and qualifies sometimes. Heroic has beaten teams like a hard-hitting G2 eSports and a slumping Astralis on LAN, while Tricked has beaten GODSENT once in a BO3 and EnVyUs in one map online. Taking out G2 is an incredible feat, and taking out Astralis even in a slump is fantastic considering they’re still Denmark’s top team, and both were on LAN. GODSENT had never been an elite team despite their great roster, and EnVyUs had been in a slump for what feels like forever, not to mention these series or map wins were online. Heroic overall is just a better team with better players, better records, better wins and a chance for Hansen to get better himself playing against higher level players. Now, as he attempts to make this move to advance his career, he’s blocked for a year. What did he do wrong?
He did make one risky choice: signing a contract a year in advance. Although the contract was signed after Hansen’s benching (according to RFRSH and Heroic), signing a contract for 2018 is chance-y, as the CSGO scene changes so much that such a contract could be obsolete. Heroic may be terrible in a year, or they could be fantastic. Hansen may be terrible in a year, or he could be fantastic.
Picking a Side
In this issue, it’s very black and white. There are two sides to choose, pick one. There really isn’t any gray area. One side claims one thing, the other claims the opposite. Who’s right? In this situation I side with Heroic and RFRSH.
Let me explain why I think Tricked is in the wrong, starting with the conflict over the contract signing. Tricked claims that the contract was signed by Hansen before the benching. Seeing this, Tricked benched him, reasoning that there’s no point in developing a player who will leave them. Sound reasoning if, as an organization, you are more concerned with the long-term than the short-term. Heroic and RFRSH claim that Hansen signed the contract after he was benched, meaning that when Tricked saw Hansen leaning more toward the Heroic side, and when the organization couldn’t get a big bag-load of money for letting him go, they benched him.
Tricked’s CEO Jensen used some pretty harsh words against Heroic, words like “sabotage” along with stating that Heroic had been unfair in the deal. This sort of diction implies some bad blood between the organizations, leading me to believe that Hansen was benched by the Tricked organization out of pure spite and negotiating power, and that Jensen lied in saying that the contract was signed prior to the benching. It’s understandable why this bad blood would exist, as Tricked had always sat behind Heroic in the Danish CSGO rankings. Regardless, being worse than another team is no excuse for disregarding ethics. THIS IS BLACKMAIL AS WELL AS A PSEUDO-HOSTAGE SITUATION and is severely unethical.
Tricked and Jensen know that by benching Hansen, Heroic would be on a timer to pay the buyout, as the more they wait the more Hansen deteriorates and the longer Heroic is stuck with a four-man roster. Tricked is able to name their price by doing so, as Heroic would be forced into buying Hansen no matter the price if they really want him with the skill level that he has now. Also, by doing so, Tricked gets their much wanted vengeance on Heroic for… what did they do again? Be a better team? In simplified forms, the blackmail is this – either Heroic pays the severely high buyout for Hansen, or Tricked sits him and he becomes bad. Tricked doesn’t care about making the Danish CSGO scene better, and Tricked doesn’t care about the good of Hansen either.
So far I have spoken as if Hansen was just an item, something one organization has that another wants. This is not the case. Hansen is a human-being – specifically an extremely talented CSGO player. By Tricked sitting him in order to spite Heroic and gain a bigger paycheck, they possibly ruin the career of a prospective CSGO star in his prime. The selfishness from the Tricked organization is insanely childish and affects the life of a person, not just the two organizations involved.
This situation also brings up a valid question: what about the future? Teams observing the situation can realize now that they can get away with behavior like this, so what’s stopping them? Not every organization has the ethics to be fair in a deal. Right now this situation is happening with Tier 2 teams with a (regardless of his stats) a Tier 2 player. What happens if this happens to a true superstar? As a community we can only sit back, observe, and hope this never happens again.
Here’s a brief synopsis of this article –
- Heroic contacts Tricked and Hansen to try and arrange a transfer.
- Tricked doesn’t like Heroic since players transfer for the better opportunities, decide to bench Hansen, and charge an unfair buyout price.
- Heroic, unable to work a deal out and unwilling to get ripped off, sign Hansen for 2018 so they can at least get him eventually.
- Hansen gets screwed.
This situation is a mess, and cannot and should not happen again if the safety and integrity of CSGO is to be maintained.
All photo credit to HLTV.org.
Heroic has paid the buyout and has acquired Hansen for immediate use. In fact, he played in ESL Pro League today! Great that both parties were able to work an agreement out, and great that Hansen isn’t kept in limbo for a full year.